Friends creator Marta Kauffman fights back tears as she admits she ‘didn’t do enough’ for diversity

‘I wish I knew then what I know today,’ said the showrunner

Ellie Harrison
Monday 08 June 2020 10:42
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Friends creator fights back tears as she admits she didn't do enough for diversity

Friends creator Marta Kauffman has said she “didn’t do enough” to ensure racial diversity on screen, in an emotional new interview about her career as a showrunner.

The screenwriter, whose credits also include Grace and Frankie and Veronica's Closet, made the comments while speaking in a ATX TV panel discussion with other female showrunners.

When asked about what she would tell her younger self if she could go back to the start of her career, Kauffman said: “I wish I knew then what I know today.”

Apologising for becoming tearful, she added: “Sorry, I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions.

“I mean, we’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough and now all I can think about is what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way? And that’s something I not only wish I knew when I started showrunning, but I wish I knew all the way up through last year.”

In response to Kauffman, the creator of A Black Lady Sketch Show, Robin Thede, said: “You guys are just as much a part of systemic racism as well because it’s a system. That’s what I keep telling people. It’s not one person being racist ruining everything, it’s a system that was set up by racists to encourage and teach racism and disguise it. No one was supposed to know it was wrong, that was the point.

“We were supposed to look like we were yelling for no reason. We were supposed to look like kneeling was an offense to the flag and not a cry to stop killing us. We’re supposed to be made to look bad and now people know better and when you know better, you do better and that’s all that people are asking for.”

Friends has been criticised in recent years for its lack of diversity. In an interview with The Guardian earlier this year, David Schwimmer – who played Ross in the sitcom – proposed a more diverse remake.

“Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends,” he said. “But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of colour.

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“One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.”

Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe, also recently defended the show last month, saying that for its time it was “very progressive”.

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